Jan Stephenson was once courted by a future US president. Picture: Tim Hunter.
Jan Stephenson was once courted by a future US president. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Aussie Stephenson named in golf Hall of Fame

JAN Stephenson nearly chose a life that would have led to a White House residence with Donald Trump, but the Australian women's golf icon instead forged a career that has been rewarded with a Hall of Fame induction.

The 66-year-old Stephenson has been confirmed by the World Golf Hall of Fame as an inductee for the class of 2019 in the female competitor category.

"It's really important for Australian women to see this," Stephenson said.

"Hopefully for female junior golfers in Australia, this shows how important it is to have golf in your life ... even if you don't make the tour it's a wonderful sport.

"I'm so emotional; I've been crying, (getting) goosebumps, I couldn't sleep. It was like winning the (1983) US Open all over again."

Stephenson achieved worldwide fame in the 1970s and '80s for a remarkable playing career highlighted by three major championship wins and 16 LPGA Tour titles, as well as the LPGA's rookie of the year award in 1974.

Stephenson was also widely regarded as golf's first sex symbol and caught the eye of now US President Trump - enjoying a brief relationship with the billionaire.

But in 1976 the Sydney native turned famously down the courtship of Trump, including an invitation to a romantic trip to Paris, to focus on golf. Although Stephenson is thrilled with her stellar career, she admits to occasionally wondering what it would have been like to become the First Lady.

Jan Stephenson won three majors and 16 LPGA tournaments.
Jan Stephenson won three majors and 16 LPGA tournaments.

"Life would have been so different," Stephenson said.

"Somebody asked (Trump) that when were playing golf (together) and he (joked), 'We would have already been divorced by now'.

"I try to imagine what it would have been like, because ... I wouldn't have been able to play golf (and) I don't think I would have got in the Hall of Fame.

"But he was actually very supportive of my career."

Although she appeared regularly on magazine covers, including a raunchy shoot for Sport Magazine in 1977, Stephenson has been credited with inspiring generations of Australian women to take up golf.

 

Jn Stephenson on a magazine cover in 1977.
Jn Stephenson on a magazine cover in 1977.

Stephenson was one of the founders of the women's senior tour and is involved with golf course design.

In March she was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal.

"I hope I did a lot," Stephenson said.

"(Australian seven-time major winner) Karrie Webb (once) said she thought I just did calendar (photoshoots) and didn't win golf tournaments.

"Of course, she's taken that back since."

Stephenson started a tradition of bringing up-and-coming Australian golfers to the US to get a taste of LPGA Tour life.

Jan Stephenson with Karrie Webb.
Jan Stephenson with Karrie Webb.

"Sarah Jane Smith and Sarah Kemp, I brought them over to the US when they were 16," Stephenson said.

Stephenson's fellow 2019 inductees include South African multiple major winner Retief Goosen, former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, Dennis Walters and the late Peggy Kirk Bell.

 

Who will win the big award?
Who will win the big award?

 

Stephenson has done a lot for Aussie golf.
Stephenson has done a lot for Aussie golf.


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